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Parties To Iran Nuclear Deal Meet In Vienna Amid U.S. Pressure

AUSTRIA -- International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi gestures as he addresses the media upon his arrival from Iran at Vienna's airport in Schwechat, August 26, 2020
AUSTRIA -- International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi gestures as he addresses the media upon his arrival from Iran at Vienna's airport in Schwechat, August 26, 2020

The remaining parties in the faltering nuclear deal between Iran and world powers met in Vienna on Tuesday to discuss ways to rescue the agreement amid pressure from the United States to restore U.N. sanctions on Iran with Iran’s arms embargo scheduled to be lifted this month.

The meeting in Vienna is being chaired by EU senior official Helga-Maria Schmid with representatives from Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran, and Russia attending, and the Iranian delegation is headed by Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Seyed Abbas Araghchi.

Araghchi is also scheduled to meet with IAEA Chief Rafael Grossi after the meeting.

The United States withdrew from the 2015 landmark nuclear agreement in May 2018, and has since reimposed sanctions on Iran. In turn, Iran has progressively been stepping up its nuclear activities in protest, including uranium enrichment and stockpiling beyond what was permitted by the deal.

Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia are struggling to save the accord, which swapped sanctions relief for Iran's agreement to scale back its nuclear program, with the group of nations expressing their opposition to the U.S. draft resolution submitted to the U.N. Security Council on August 20. The U.S.-led resolution calls on the Council to invoke the "snapback" mechanism, which allows any participant of the deal to seek the reimposition of the multilateral sanctions lifted in 2015 in accordance with resolution 2231.

In a joint statement on August 20, the European sides of the nuclear accord officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) said the U.S. ceased to be a participant in the JCPOA following their withdrawal from the deal and defended their decision not to support the U.S. move. Britain, France and Germany also abstained from voting on August 15 when the United States submitted a resolution to the Security Council to extend the arms embargo on Iran.

"Our position regarding the effectiveness of the U.S. notification pursuant to resolution 2231 [to invoke the snapback mechanism] has consequently been very clearly expressed to the Presidency and all UNSC members. We cannot therefore support this action which is incompatible with our current efforts to support the JCPOA," the statement said.

Iran calls the U.S. move "unilateralism" and says the position of the Security Council members proves that the world is rejecting the U.S. attempt to bring Iran to its knees by reimposing of U.N. sanctions in addition to its own sanctions and preventing an arms embargo on Iran. The United States, however, has protested that the Security Council has failed to "hold Iran accountable".

China and Russia, Iran's veto-wielding allies, have also opposed the U.S. move.

In a boost to the Vienna talks, Iran met with IAEA chief Rafael Grossi in Tehran last week, and agreed to allow IAEA investigators visit two sites suspected of having hosted undeclared nuclear activity in the early 2000s.

The Vienna-based agency had criticized Iranian officials for denying access to the two locations, and for not answering questions about past activities at the sites, and on June 19 its Board of Directors passed a resolution against Iran. The resolution proposed by Britain, France and Germany was the first IAEA resolution against Iran since 2012. The European trio, however, are now willing to work with Iran to preserve the JCPOA as Iran has agreed to grant access to IAEA inspectors to the disputed sites.